The 4-Day Work Week is a Flawed Sentiment
America sells innovation. Like oil for the Middle East, it is the lifeblood of the U.S. One sure-fire way to hinder this innovation? The 4-day work week, a trending concept that has since evolved into a policy-level initiative in countries such as Japan, Iceland, and Spain. In the advertising, tech, and advertising tech space, the 4-day work week overlooks the core determinant factors of American innovation – discourse; discussion; disagreement. The common denominator among them and the fundamental missing piece of the puzzle in the 4-day work week system? The ability to gather as a tribe and satisfy the innate tribal nature of human beings. It goes without saying that most Americans wish that they could work less – and this sentiment is being revisited in the 4-day work week following the rise in remote work that was companies’ sustenance throughout the pandemic. Like influencer marketing, remote work is a trend that is here to stay; however, coupling this with the 4-day work week may be more problematic than beneficial.
The 4-Day Work Week is a Barrier to Innovation
Any way you slice it, the 4-day work week system is flawed because it will either excessively exhaust people through increased hours or cut 8-hours out of American innovation. If the former option is pursued, it will inherently force employees to work more than 10 hours per day to make up for the absence of a full work day. Already, the shift to remote resulted in a 16% decline in innovation due to increased workforce dispersion, a finding mirrored by Microsoft. Zoomed out, working from sunrise to well beyond sunset, missing key family moments – the 4-day work week which was supposed to contribute to work-life balance would actually accomplish the opposite while forcing employees to work well-beyond the six hour productivity sweet spot reported by Harvard Business Review. On top of that, it would be a step back for eliminating workplace inequity. For large companies like Boeing and Estee Lauder whose employees range from those on the production line to client-facing roles, the 4-day work week would be impossible to implement. Manufacturing and public relations roles would need to continue working full weeks to continue producing goods and meet unpredictable client needs, respectively. On the flip-side, the version which involves cutting 8 hours from the work week would push price inflation by 20% while overlooking a core American tenet of work – we work until the job is done. For the same reasons that paid vacation is widely underutilized, the 4-day work week may be implemented but not adhered to. Psychological commitment to work has resulted in the U.S. reporting among the lowest paid vacation usage when ranked globally, with 55% of Americans documented as not using all of their vacation time – and this is true regardless of generation. Americans simply take less work off compared to other nations because we prioritize time spent on innovating.
What is the Alternative?
For industries that do not sell time, the 4-day work week system may make sense; but for the advertising, tech, and advertising tech firms who are purveyors of time, it would only stifle innovation. That leaves us at an impasse – talent is still overworked; what is the alternative? A hybrid work week paired with fringe benefits. A hybrid system encourages staff to be tribal and work collaboratively, while remaining conscientious of work-life balance and offering employees the flexibility to manage their own time. Because, let’s face it – no one is in a working state of mind 100% of the time. Rather than zeroing in on reports of firms that have increased productivity and revenue as a result of the 4-day work week, we should be questioning whether its implementation actually improves the quality of life for employees; for most, the answer is no. Enter, fringe benefits – meant to empower employees to increase performance. Talent should be provided with resources to improve financial wellness, health, and physical well-being to create a conducive environment for people to do the best work of their life. For example, a “commute benefit” on in-office days to allow employees to leave work early; access to a financial advisor; and 24/7 counseling via a free wellness application.
Where do you think of your best ideas? For some, it may be in the shower, while for others it may be while watching sports. The bottom line is that the best work of your life can’t be limited to Monday through Friday – it happens during these micro-moments, which the 4-day work week would effectively limit. Rather than focusing on time, firms should prioritize fringe benefits to empower employees to do the best work of their life, and be rewarded in a way that can be measurable. After all – you can’t apply a one-size-fits-all solution to a workforce that is extremely diverse in their needs.